'Midnight Cowboy' director dies at 77

Saturday, July 26, 2003

LOS ANGELES -- Oscar-winning director John Schlesinger, who daringly brought gay characters into mainstream cinema with "Midnight Cowboy" and tapped into nightmares with the teeth-drilling torture of "Marathon Man," died Friday at 77.

The filmmaker had a stroke in 2000, and his condition had deteriorated significantly in recent weeks.

Schlesinger broke ground in 1969 with his first American film, "Midnight Cowboy." It starred Jon Voight as a Texan who turns to prostitution to survive in New York and Dustin Hoffman as the vagrant Ratso Rizzo.

His 1975 thriller, "Marathon Man," teamed him again with Hoffman, who played an innocent man tortured for information by a Nazi war criminal with a penchant for unanaesthetized dentistry, played by Laurence Olivier.

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